Wednesday night, 14 of this season's "American Idol" top 24 were announced, ending with what was supposed to be a cliffhanger as weepy scenery-chewer Adam Brock awaited his fate. Well, Adam found out within the first 90 seconds of Thursday's part 2 "Green Mile" episode that he'd made it (much to my dismay; see below for my mini-rant why). But there were a few other announcements this evening that were indeed surprising.
Among Thursday's notable eliminations were charismatic boy wonder David Leathers Jr, who'd really impressed me in Vegas; Scott Dangerfield, one of my favorites from last year who'd I'd been hoping to see more of this year, but who faltered in his final performance; bipolar teen Shelby Lynn Tweten, who'd once disturbingly declared that her "Idol" dream was the only thing keeping her on her meds; and gentle giant Jermaine Jones, who sobbed like a small child when he didn't make it through.
Will these rejected contestants try again next year? Well, considering that a whopping EIGHT of this season's official top 24 are actually returning auditioners, it's quite possible that some of these castoffs will come back for Season 12. And we may very well see Jermaine or David back next week!
Yes, that's right: Even more surprising than Thursday's cuts was the end-of-show announcement that the judges apparently had had some change of heart and had decided to bring back one bonus boy, to create a top 13 boys group--an "American Idol" first, for sure. The four contestants in the running for this extra slot will be Jermaine Jones, David Leathers Jr., psycho-cowboy Richie Law (please, gawd, NO), and handsome singing waiter/J.Lo crushboy Johnny Keyser. Gee, I wonder who it'll be? Johnny seems like the super-obvious choice...but we will have to wait until next Tuesday to find out for sure.
Anyway, here are the final contestants who definitely DID make the top 24 this Thursday, listed in order of my "ones to watch" personal preference:
Deandre Brackensick - One of many returning contestants this season, Deandre tried out last year at age 15 and somehow slipped through the cracks. Now, he seems truly primed for "Idol" glory. He looks like a star already, with hair even Heejun Han's idol Michael Bolton would envy, and the kid can sang. And most importantly, he seems relevant and current. He's the total package. As Simon Cowell would put it, Deandre's got the X factor.
Aaron Marcellus Sanders - Sometimes I think this season is beginning to look a lot like "American Idol Rewind." Aaron is yet another returning contestant, a veteran of both Seasons 7 and 10. Apparently the third time's the charm for him. And as one of the shockingly few African-American R&B singers this season, he may now easily find a niche in this competition.
Eben Franckewitz - With a head of hair like his, one almost as glorious as Deandre's in its own way, the Bieber comparisons are inevitable here. But 15-year-old Eben has a better voice than the Biebs, and better manners. He's a little square (I think his final-two competitor David Leathers Jr. had a little more Justin-like swag), but he's a sweet kid that grandmas and little girls will adore. And let's face it, grandmas and little girls are the ones who have the time to mass-vote for "American Idol." They don't care so much about swag.
Chase Likens - Chase is this year's token cowboy. Yes, he's a whole lot better than Heejun's aforementioned arch nemesis, Richie Law. But so far, he hasn't gotten much screentime and has blended into the background, so he seems like a fodder fall guy to me.
Jeremy Rosado - So far, Jeremy has come across to me like this year's Jovany Barreto--an everyman sort of lug with a good voice, but not someone who seems to have superstar potential. (J.Lo kept raving about what a "nice guy" Jeremy is, but just because someone is nice doesn't mean he deserves to be in the top 24.) That being said, Jeremy's Hollywood Week rendition of "Superstar" was not bad, even if it was practically the only screentime he got all season before this week. Is Jeremy just fodder? Probably, but we shall see.
Adam Brock - I'm sorry, but this self-described "white chocolate" guy annoys the heck out of me. It's as if the mad "Idol" scientists who forged frontrunner Phillip Phillips out of the spare parts of Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen, and David Cook went back into the 19 Entertainment lab and pieced together all the worst bits of Danny Gokey and Taylor Hicks, in an "Idol" experiment gone very awry. Adam seems like a nice guy, and maybe he'll prove me wrong on next week's live show, but right now, I'm not sweet on this particular flavor of white chocolate. (Plus his constant pimping of his neglected new baby is kind of off-putting.) I find it interesting that the decision to put Adam through to the top 24 was not unanimous...I wonder which judge gave the thumbs-down to this guy?
Hallie Day - A Hitchcock blonde with a dark, druggy past (and perhaps equally embarrassing failed-girl-group past), this reformed bad girl has not only a made-for-TV sob story, but a made-for-the-camera lovely face and a made-for-the-studio voice. She seems like the total "Idol" package. Now it remains to be seen if her cool Deborah Harry-esque looks will alienate catty female voters.
Shannon Magrane - A six-foot-tall, flaxen-haired, barely-16 volleyball player and daughter of St. Louis Cardinals veteran Joe Magrane, Shannon is "Idol" material is I ever saw it. But she may be this year's Pia Toscano: a gorgeous girl who seems to have it all, EXCEPT a really engaging, vibrant personality. Shannon needs to loosen up on next week's live show, if she wants to seem likable and relatable. She also better not make the mistake of flubbing the lyrics, like she did during Hollywood Week. And she might want to make sure her dad is chaperoning, possibly while holding a baseball bat, whenever lecherous ol' Steven Tyler is on the set.
Skylar Laine - I was a bit put off by this 17-year-old's first audition, when she introduced herself to America with the declaration, "Let's go shoot some deer!" and invited "Idol" cameras into her bedroom, which was creepily decorated with the taxidermy remains of her hunting conquests. But hey, at least no one could accuse Skylar of not being a real, red-blooded country girl. Skylar is one tough chick--she impressively belted her guts out during Hollywood Week, even after being hospitalized with the Idol Flu--and she's got a sort of Miranda Lambert thing going on. So I think she could go far and give the top 24's other two country girls, Baylie Brown and Chelsea Sorrell, some serious competition. I like how raw and real Skylar is, and I think America will too. (But she should have jumped in that Idol pool when she had the chance!)
Hollie Cavanagh - Here's another familiar face. Hollie auditioned last year, when she was 17. At first she was told by the judges that she wasn't quite ready for prime time, after nerves got the better of her. But then they gave her the benefit of the doubt and put her through to Hollywood anyway. Unsurprisingly, Hollie floundered there and didn't make it any farther, but now she is back. Unfortunately, she hasn't received nearly enough screentime this season for me to determine how much she has improved since then. Let's just hope that she has those nerves under control for next week's live show!
So below is the full top 24 list, once again sorted in order of my favorites. Next Tuesday, the dozen boys--plus one 13th mystery man TBD--will compete live for the first time, followed by the girls on Wednesday. Who will make it to the overall top 12? We'll find out on next Thursday's sure-to-be-nail-biting first live results show. Until then...Parker out.
Aaron Marcellus Sanders
Erika Van Pelt
Brielle Von Hugel